9 Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans Headed to Congress

Monday, 12 Nov 2012 03:52 PM

By Stephen Feller

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With Monday marking the federal observance of Veterans Day, nine more veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will soon be headed to the U.S. House of Representatives, bringing the total number to 16 amid a wave of retirements and election losses that still results in a net loss in the total number of veterans in Congress.

There are only 26 senators and 90 members of Congress — about 20 percent of the 535 members of the of the House and Senate — who served in the military, a 50 percent drop from what it was in the 1970s, reported The Washington Post.

With the Senate losing six veterans to retirement or election loss, according to CNN, the 133th Congress is guaranteed to have even fewer veterans than the current — which has the fewest veterans in it since World War II.

The theory is that having more veterans in Congress will help to ensure that the hundreds of thousands of troops slowly coming home from the two 10-year-long wars are properly taken care of and receive help to get back on their feet.

Representative-elect Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said he brings firsthand foreign affairs experience to Congress, as well as the knowledge he gained about waging and fighting wars firsthand when he was doing it.

"Any veteran in any walk of life has these intangible skill sets like leadership, teamwork, positive spirit, how to act under extreme pressure, how to make decision with high stakes and imperfect information," Cotton said.

Seth Lynn, executive director of Veterans Campaign, a non-profit group that trains veterans to run for public office, said that while the elimination of the military draft in the 1970s means there are less veterans in general, the cost of running a modern campaign also has a lot to do with the decrease.

As a result of waiting for politicians to make certain decisions for them, Lynn said that veterans also tend to be less accepting of the partisan bickering that has dominated Washington for more than a decade.

Even as the number of veterans elected to Congress has dropped in the last 40 years, veterans still manage to have some of the most prominent voices on war, the armed forces and foreign policy because of their experience and personal knowledge, he said.

"Having members in Congress with military experience is crucial to effective civilian control of the military," Lynn said. "It's not always that veterans care more about defense issues, but those politicians who have served in the military understand to a much greater degree what they are voting on."

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